Northern Ireland supporters mourn death of young fan in Nice

Tributes pour in for Darren Rodgers (24), who died after fall from promenade

Northern Ireland supporters were today making the 470km trip from Nice to Lyon subdued and saddened on two counts.

First, they are smarting at the 1-0 defeat to Poland, but more importantly because of the death of Darren Rodgers, who fell to his death off a Nice promenade early Monday morning.

Northern Ireland player Gareth McAuley put matters into perspective. “You think things are bad, then you learn one of your own loses his life last night. Thoughts with family and friends,” he wrote in a tweet.

Mr Rodgers (24) from the Meadowvale area of Ballymena, in Co Antrim, had travelled to France with a group of friends to cheer on Northern Ireland in their Group C games.


As fellow supporter Alan Roulston observed yesterday, he was one of thousands "living the dream".

Mr Roulston from Dromore, Co Down, was one of hundreds of fans who gathered yesterday to pay their respects at the railings overlooking Castel Beach, where Mr Rodgers fell to his death at about 2am on Monday.


Northern Ireland scarves and flags were draped over the railings. Flowers were left at the scene too with the message, “RIP wee man, thoughts and prayers with your family and friends. Ballymacash NISC (Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club).” Someone had also left a pennant of the local Nice football team.

Word of the accident broke on Monday morning. PSNI Supt Nigel Goddard, who is leading a PSNI team in monitoring the behaviour of the Northern Irish fans, said Mr Rodgers "appeared to have fallen from the quayside on to the rocky beach and died from the injuries from that fall".


French police said Mr Rodgers was on his own at the time, having been at the Poland match earlier with friends and that a number of people witnessed the accident.

Supt Goddard said the death may have been alcohol related. He said that Mr Rodgers “quite possibly had quite a bit of drink taken and seems to have fallen”. French police also said alcohol may have been a factor.

From the scene it appeared that Mr Rodgers fell about 8 metres from the railings, through the straw roof or canopy of a beach restaurant below.

The Rodgers family, from Ballymena, thanked the local community for their help and support and appealed for privacy.

DUP North Antrim MLA Paul Frew who had spoken to Mr Rodgers on Sunday, said he was a "great lad with a big heart".

As a football player, he “would have ran through a brick wall for his mates”, Mr Frew said.

There were many messages of sympathy for Mr Rodgers and his family and friends, including a joint statement from DUP First Minister Arlene Foster, who attended the game against Poland, and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

“This sad news is in stark contrast to the jovial carnival atmosphere just hours before at the game against Poland,” they said. “Our fans have been fine ambassadors for the place we all call home and we encourage everyone to keep safe.”

Before the accident, Supt Goddard had warned of the dangerous “cocktail” of too much sun and beer and that fans needed to be “wary” of not getting carried away on the “exuberance” of the Euros.

Sometimes, though, the carnival partying has been too exuberant, a chastening thought that some of the fans en route to Lyon for Thursday evening's crucial game against Ukraine might take with them.

The Northern Ireland players want to wear black armbands at Thursday’s game while the fans are hoping to stage a minute’s applause at the 24th minute of the game, reflecting Mr Rodgers’ age.

Manager Michael O’Neill sent out a message to fans: “Make sure you look after each other while you are out here.”

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times